Journey to Tsabong

A bit after eight the Archdeacon, Fr. Andrew Mudereri, and I find ourselves on the way. The trip from Gaborone to Tsabong is a long one, perhaps 300 miles. In an hour or so we reach Kanye, then head west, leaving the dramatic hills for flat. The trees seem smaller, the scrub further apart, as we go along; the soil becomes distinctly sandier. We are skirting the southern edge of the Kalahari Desert.

There are few towns along the way. My map marks them with an all-black circle (‘garage only’), half-black half-white (‘petrol only’), or all white (‘no known facilities’). Tsabong will have gasoline.

Some thirty miles from Tsabong we turn off the main road. ‘There is the church,’ Fr. Andrew says, ‘with the blue door.’ Up a short dirt track and we are there: St. Anna’s, Kisa.

The congregation had expected us at noon, and they are still there, some 30-40 of them, at 2:30. I’m introduced, we say dumela rra, dumela mma, over and over again in greeting, and we go in.

A woman is at a blackboard, propped up on a bench in a corner near the altar. She writes Difela, hymns, on one side, Dipalo, readings, on the other.

The readings are dispensed with quickly: One from 1 Timotheo, the gospel from Mareko. Fr. Andrew looks up the appointed psalm, Peselema.

The hymns take longer. The Archdeacon chooses one from the Setswana hymnal, sings a verse. The congregation joins in, as they are able; a poor response shows it’s not known well enough. Eventually we have five. The woman dutifully puts their numbers on the board.

At the end of the service the women come dancing out of the building, singing a chorus. Last are two ancient ladies, taking full part, large smiles. I try to capture them with my camera. Their faces have no place left to put another wrinkle.

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